Obituary: Nassief, associate professor of neurology, 43

Abdullah M. Nassief, M.D., one of the region’s premier experts on stroke, died Feb. 3, 2009, of coronary artery disease while playing soccer, one of his favorite pastimes. He was 43.


Nassief, associate professor of neurology, was co-director of the Cerebrovascular Disease Section in the Department of Neurology. He also was director of the Neurology Residency Program at the School of Medicine and of the Clinical Stroke Center and of Acute Rehabilitation Services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Nassief spearheaded the team that led to Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s naming as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, the first subspecialty accreditation in any area of medicine obtained by the hospital. He played a central role in developing Washington University Medical Center as one of the premier stroke centers in the country.

“Abdul was a compassionate, caring physician and a dedicated teacher,” said David M. Holtzman, M.D., the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology. “He was an inspirational role model to many medical students and residents pursuing careers in neurology. He had infectious energy and enthusiasm and took genuine interest in residents and students. He will be missed, both as a colleague and a friend.”

Mark Goldberg, M.D., professor of neurology, helped to train Nassief when he came to the School of Medicine as a fellow. “But lately he trained me,” he said. “He was a stroke expert for the whole region and was the person people turned to with difficult questions about stroke. His mission was to take care of stroke patients.”

Goldberg said Nassief was dedicated to his family and was extremely friendly as well as intelligent.

“He had an encyclopedic knowledge for clinical things,” Goldberg said.

“Abdul was a very special person,” said Jin-Moo Lee, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and director of the Cerebrovascular Disease Section in the Department of Neurology. “He had a presence and a sincere way of connecting with people. He touched many hearts — colleagues, co-workers and patients alike. He will be dearly missed.”

Nassief earned a medical degree at King Saud University College of Medicine in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1989. He completed residencies at King Fahad Hospital in Riyadh and at the University of Vermont. He completed two years of fellowship training in cerebrovascular disease at Washington University School of Medicine before joining the faculty in 2000.

Nassief was an admired and recognized teacher who won several teaching awards, including the Sven Eliasson Award for Teaching Excellence in the Department of Neurology and the prestigious Washington University School of Medicine Distinguished Clinical Teacher of the Year Award in 2008.

He also received clinical teaching awards from students in 2000, ’03, ’04 and ’05.

Nassief is survived by his wife, Sheri, and two young sons, Fahris, 8, and Sammy, 5.

A memorial service will be held in St. Louis at a later date.